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Oren, Raimondi, Alvarez
For more about Puccini: Tosca and the Puccini: Tosca Blu-ray release, see Puccini: Tosca Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on January 31, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Fiorenza Cedolins, Marcelo Álvarez, Ruggero Raimondi, Marco Spotti, Fabio Previati, Enrico Facini
Directors: Loreena Kaufmann, Hugo de Ana
» See full cast & crew
Puccini: Tosca Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, January 31, 2009
Rome 1800, The Church of San'Andrea della Valle. Cesare Angelotti (Marco Spotti), a political prisoner who has escaped his captors, rushes in and hides. The liberal painter Mario Cavaradossi (Marcelo Alvarez) arrives and resumes his work on a large portrait of the Madonna inspired by Marchessa Attavanti. He compares his beloved, Floria Tosca (Fiorenza Cedolins), with the Madonna. In the far corner of the church an old sacristan is performing his duties.
The sacristan leaves. Angelotti appears and asks Cavaradossi for help. He gives him food, but urges him to hide when Tosca arrives. Having heard Cavaradossi speak, Tosca asks if he is seeing another woman. Cavaradossi reassures her that she is the only one he loves. Tosca leaves and Cavaradossi vows to help Angelotti. The two leave the church.
The sacristan and his choir return. They begin to sing but Scarpia (Ruggero Raimondi) appears looking for Angelotti. The two see an empty food basket and conclude that Cavaradossi must have helped Angelotti escape. Tosca appears looking for Cavaradossi. Scarpia announces that her lover has been unfaithful.
Alone Scarpia fantasizes about Tosca. Spoletta (Enrico Facini) arrives and announces that Cavaradossi has been captured. Ecstatic Scarpia begins to question him about Angelotti's whereabouts. Tosca is brought but Cavaradossi refuses to talk. He is taken away. Scarpia announces that Cavaradossi will be executed.
Tosca begs Scarpia to pardon her lover.
Scarpia offers Tosca a deal. He promises to free Cavaradossi if Tosca sleeps with him. With rumors circulating that Angelotti has committed suicide, instead of giving himself to Scarpia's soldiers, Tosca agrees. She also demands a travel-permit that will keep Scarpia's men away from her. Scarpia agrees and meets Tosca. But Tosca stabs Scarpia in the heart with a large knife and he dies.
Tosca arrives at Cavaradossi's cell. She explains to him her deal with Scarpia and the two hug each other. But the guards arrive, take Cavaradossi away, and execute him. Realizing what Scarpia has done, Tosca leaps off the castle's parapet to her death.
Written on an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, and based on Victorien Sardou's La Tosca, Giacomo Puccini's Tosca was first staged in Rome on January 14th, 1900. The opera was immediately embraced by both critics and opera-aficionados, and to this day it remains one of the most performed classical works in venues around the world.
Divided in three acts Tosca focuses on the tragic relationship between an idealistic painter and a beautiful woman. The heavily dramatic overtones from the libretto are consistent but not overwhelming. Unsurprisingly, Tosca also incorporates a number of comedic scenes with a presence of their own.
More than anything else, however, Tosca is loved because it is a grandiose spectacle. It is filled with history and powerful emotions that remind viewers about an era when style and excess where part of everyday life. Tosca is also a charged with political innuendo opera whose message is hardly dated.
The production of Tosca captured on this Blu-ray disc was staged by producer Hugo de Ana and conducted by Arena di Verona resident-conductor Daniel Oren. A terrific cast of singers was assembled for it - Ruggero Raimondi (Bass), Marcelo Alvarez (Tenor), Enrico Facini (Tenor), Fabio Previati (Baritone), Marco Spotti (Bass), and Fiorenza Cedolins (Soprano).
What separates this specific production of Tosca from most every other performance of the famous opera is the atmosphere. The colossal stage of Arena di Verona, as well as the lavish decors, simply has to be seen to be believed.
The singers, and especially Ruggero Raimondi, are brilliant. Fiorenza Cedolins's singing is powerful and moving, but at times perhaps a bit too emotional even for a Puccini opera. The orchestra led by Maestro Daniel Oren is just as impressive in adding up to the grandiose atmosphere Tosca is cherished for.
Puccini: Tosca Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC, and granted a 1080i "live" transfer Giacomo Puccini's Tosca arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of TDK.
This is the first US-distributed release by TDK to reach my desk, and I was very excited to see how it will compare to the strong Blu-ray discs we have been seeing from Opus Arte and Arthaus Musik. Suffice to say, fans of classical music will have yet another label to cherish as TDK are certainly a name you want to remember if opera is something you like.
Recorded live at Arena di Verona in July of 2006, Tosca has been framed in 1.78:1. The transfer TDK have provided is indeed very good looking – the picture is sharp and vivid, contrast lovely, and detail impressive. The color-scheme is also strong. Furthermore, the massive stage of Arena di Verona is filled with spectacularly rich decors, though the spot-lighting definitely allows for a clean and very detailed look. This being said, there are two issues with TDK's Blu-ray transfer that I hope will be addressed in the future. First, the motion-judder ranges from average to strong. Unlike what we have seen from Opus Arte and their "live" transfers, this release occasionally suffers from image distortions that I believe some will be unable to tolerate. For example, when the camera zooms it is fairly easy to notice the image "smearing" we refer to as "motion judder" (quite a bit of it is noticeable even during traditionally less susceptible to the issue close-ups) . Second, I was able to detect some very strange jerky movements (in addition to mild shimmering that pops up during selected scenes) that should have been addressed. From what I could tell, these are courtesy of a specific camera which covers the right side of the stage. To sum it all up, the basics for a terrific "live" transfer are certainly here. If TDK addresses the motion-judder described above, just as Opus Arte did some time ago, I am convinced that we will be looking at a company with a very strong roster of classical releases. (Note: This is a Region-Free Blu-ray disc which you will be able to play on your PS3 or SA regardless of your geographical location).
Puccini: Tosca Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: Italian: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Italian: PCM Stereo. Before I address the audio tracks and their quality, I would like to point out that Tosca was recorded live at what basically is an open-air venue as big as a large football stadium. So, even though acoustically Arena di Verona provides a terrific environment for an opera performance, it is probably a real nightmare for recording engineers. This being said, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is definitely quite strong. The balance between the orchestra and the singers is mostly well-handled and I did not detect any disturbing hissings, pops, or cracks to report here. On the other hand, the rear channels aren't exceptionally active. As far as I am concerned, the mostly enhance the orchestra accompaniment which the PCM track splits up evenly and in a more modest fashion. Furthermore, while the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track comes off as the slightly more potent one, I don't necessarily believe that it offers greater depth of sound (again, it is fairly easy to hear that because of the venue and how Tosca is staged the open air absorbs quite a bit of the music). Still, the overall "live" experience is certainly better captured through the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, and I recommend that you opt for it when viewing this disc. For the record, TDL have provided optional English, German, French, Spanish, and Italian subtitles for Tosca.
Puccini: Tosca Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
This is the first BD-Live enabled opera disc to be released (this is certainly the first disc that we've seen), and we are very excited to see it. So, aside from a picture gallery and trailer for Giselle, the BD allows you to connect to an online portal where you could access a large gallery of trailers for other TDK/Arthouse Musik releases. Obviously, this is a very exciting development and we hope that the leading music labels will begin adding exclusive content that will make their Blu-ray discs even more appealing to opera fans.
Puccini: Tosca Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
This is the first Blu-ray disc by TDK to reach my desk and I feel fairly confident that we will be hearing a lot from them in the future. Their DVD catalog is terrific and if they begin porting to Blu-ray what they have released in the past, opera aficionados will find it impossible to keep up with the influx of terrific, worthy of owning, productions. This being said, there are two minor issues with this Blu-ray disc that I hope we won't have to discuss in the future - TDK have all of the basics intact, and I believe that it is simply a matter of time before they make the necessary corrections.
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